“He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not”
April 16th, 2014
by Alva Gardner
The most important and basic step you must take in order to date successfully is to be completely comfortable (or as close to it as possible) with your disability. Whether this comfort is with your chosen method for getting around, the fact that your limbs spaz out when you get nervous, or that you prefer eating chips and popcorn with your tongue over your hands. The important thing is to try and think about these characteristics as attributes and qualities that the right partner is not only going to accept, but cherish about you.
In case it was not obvious, these are all (and only a few) aspects of myself which I had to embrace and become comfortable discussing. Admittedly, I am at the slight advantage that, as a public speaker since age eight, I find talking about my disability exciting, interesting, and downright empowering. I acknowledge, however, that not everyone has had this opportunity. I think the easiest way to become comfortable talking about your disability as a whole is to pick one aspect of your disability that you like or are especially proud of. For me, that was nicknaming my wheelchair “The Bulldozer.” As I got more comfortable “bragging” about this attribute I noticed that people, especially men I was interested in dating, started to get more comfortable with my disability and began to see it as something more than just a letdown. This is true for so many parts of any disability, whether it is the mode of transportation you use to get around, the way you prefer to eat chips or popcorn, or even if you have a speech impediment that makes people have to listen to you when you speak. It takes a little longer to find people smart, patient, and brave enough to take time to look past the superficial and get to know the real you, but when you find that special someone, I promise, it will all be worth it.
It is also crucial to remember that most people you go on dates with are going to be shallow, rude jerks (intentionally or unintentionally). I have been on my fair share of first dates that ranged from pleasant, to awkward, to downright unbelieve(ably bad!). I have been on dates where the guy stared at my mouth every time I talked, to ones where the guy could not talk about anything but my disability, to ones where he clearly had not known about my disability before showing up, and all the way to ones where the guy was more comfortable with my disability on a first date than I was! (disclaimer: I’m still dating that one! He’s a keeper <3). It was my experience, too, that all but two of the guys I went out with had never gone out with a woman in a chair or with any disability before me. Once I came to accept and expect that from the guys I would go out with, it really got easier to recognize that their awkwardness and discomfort was not necessarily about me, but with the newness of the experience.
I don’t want to candy-coat it for you; at times, dating with a disability sucks! It is up to you most of the time to plan accessible dates, you have to be comfortable enough with your disability for the both of you (or at least fake it that you are), and more times than not, you are going to be rejected. BUT! The great thing about dating with a disability is that if you find someone who can truly look beyond your disability and get to know you as a person, odds are you’ve got yourself a good one!